Phillies: 1 Missing Ingredient for Fans

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

From your comfortable easy chair or seat at the Philadelphia Phillies home, the game appears easier than it is. But the batter, catcher and umpire have a view even those in the first row exactly behind the plate don't.   

 

Tunnel Vision:

Even though an opportunity presents itself, this Phillies fan can only understand one piece of the jigsaw puzzle until additional information is available. However, the situation of having a smoked ball coming directly at you is an unforgettable experience, but it’s a common occurrence between the lines. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” - Robertson Davies

The faithful can cure a flaw or a slump with ease: See the ball, hit the ball. To some, the solution is elementary, and they wonder why so many stars have any difficulty. Basically, a hitter can fail at a 70 percent clip even if he mostly puts the ball in play. A kid’s game, no?                 

Frustration is the view from a distance when a player doesn’t immediately correct what obviously isn’t working. To paraphrase Willie Mays, though, if he knew what he was doing wrong he’d fix it, but that’s why he needed a coach to find a small mechanical flaw in his hitting approach.  

Some locals have expectations so high they qualify as wishful thinking. In fact, even Mickey Mantle in the broadcasters’ booth stated it looked easy from there, but he knew otherwise. Unfortunately, spectators have one view alone.  

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Phillies, NL East: 2021’s Underestimated Factor

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While some Philadelphia Phillies fans judge their franchise and rivals by their rotation and offense, they can sell their relief corps and defense short. Especially bullpens! According to baseball men, though, teams need a pen to win a championship; and one takeaway is also a divisional title or a wild card.  

 

The Battle of the Pens:

The Phillies faithful overall harbor almost the same beliefs from one season to the next. Basically, it’s almost as if they can’t fathom being incorrect, life’s distractions prevent them from closer examination, and/or they’re only willing to accept minimal changes to their beliefs.  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Never underestimate the power of the human mind to believe what it wants to believe, no matter the conflicting evidence.” - Brian Herbert

Fans come in two types --here and elsewhere-- one is the pessimist who searches out every flaw to cushion defeats. Every 162, though, most organizations lose at least 60 games: Winning can sometimes be more relief than celebration as contests mount.   

I was an optimist (now neutral): hoping for the best outcome beyond being reasonable. Yes, some can even expect a World Series victory despite the obstacles and luck involved in said possibility. For now, 2021’s hot start is fuel for optimists. But before I covered the Phils, here were my beliefs.  

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National 2021 Predictions: Phillies, NL East

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The usual ritual at March’s end is the upcoming season’s forecast, and the Philadelphia Phillies are currently in the most competitive division. However, every contender is one major injury away from an endless summer and unhappy fans, who don’t want to wait until next year. Get a real GM! 

 

Forecast One:

When some Phillies faithful point to their rivals’ strengths and the Fightins’ shortcomings, victory becomes virtually impossible. Translation: Their foes’ personnel will live up to expectations, while the local nine will regress to career disappointments. But each campaign has surprises, injuries and rough patches.  

IN OTHER WORDS:   

“I'm going to make a prediction - it could go either way.” - Ron Atkinson

Frequently, some national predictions will change during the 162 because of injuries, unexpected disappointments, surprises, and July acquisitions. Plus forecasting involves number crunching, and there is no formula for the human element: The Atlanta Braves.          

Some head-shaking moves have explanations below the surface. To illustrate, the Phils assigned JoJo Romero to their minor league camp because he had frequently fallen behind in counts. And Tony Watson’s $3 million deal had called for earning a spot in camp, not his track record: He had to pitch like it counted.            

General rule: Deep-pocketed organizations prefer to be close to but not over the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) of $210 million AAV (average annual value). And Watson would have put the Fightins over said amount. Therefore, he, Brandon Kinzler and Matt Joyce had to produce.

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Phillies: 2021’s Decision Time

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In spring training’s final days, the Philadelphia Phillies must not only cut the active roster to 26 but also might designate for assignment players they can’t --but would prefer to-- keep. Fortunately and unfortunately, injuries and rehabs can buy the execs up to a month to delay tough decisions.     

 

Destinations:

For the Phillies faithful, a numbers crunch can be confusing, especially if they lack three pieces of information the front office has. Therefore, the locals don’t understand the higher-ups thinking because they believe another move makes more sense. Though, not below the surface. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go there are penalties.” - Elia Kazan        

Like other baseball aspects, making the 26-man roster has annual certainties. Organizational determinations involve money, players with or without options, the choice of two with similar skill sets, injuries and the team’s competitive status. Usually, difficult cuts are last-minute decisions and extremely complex.   

Being slightly below the $210 million AAV (average annual value) is management’s preference and can affect final decisions. Presently, carrying Matt Joyce would increase the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) to $209 million. 

Current CBT of $210 million AAV:

DECISION

PLUS

TOTAL

CHANCES

Present

 

$201.7 million

 

+ Brandon Kintzler

$3 million

$204.7 million

Likely

+ Matt Joyce

$1.5 million

$206.2 million

Likely

5 at MLB Minimum 

$2.8 million

$209 million

Possible

4 with Odubel Herrera

$2.2 million

$208.4 million

Possible

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The 2021 Phillies March to May

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With each step, the Philadelphia Phillies move closer to the Bank and many faithful spectators to cheer them on and subsequently spur on the adrenaline rush missing in 2020. Therefore, regulars and closers will again feel an extra gear taking the field.

 

Center Fielder to be Named Later:

Phillies fans have voiced their beliefs regarding the five candidates for the only regular opening in the everyday eight. Basically, some think this group includes either a fourth outfielder, a failed prospect, a former number one draft pick who disappointed them, a second-chance sinner, and/or an injury-plagued speedster.  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“You have no choices about how you lose, but you do have a choice about how you come back and prepare to win again.” - Pat Riley

During March, three player types are competing to go north. One will make the team regardless of his spring performance, while another will receive an MiLB assignment for the same reason. On the bubble are those who might make the squad if they produce and fit a club’s needs. Basically, coin flips!                                    

Up the middle, defense is priority one: It must at least be above average. And Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery, Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera and Mickey Moniak qualify. Playing-wise, none will be an organizational liability, but some locals may disagree regarding a former All-Star.                 

With the bats, one may step forward to claim the position full-time. But manager Joe Girardi realizes a platoon may be more productive except for switch-hitting Quinn. From the right side, Kingery will compete with left-handers Haseley, Herrera and Moniak. 

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Phillies: Odd Arm Wins Role for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful celebrate the home run videos of Bryce Harper and others, the difference-making is on the mound. And assuming who the closer-to-be is or isn’t may be neither Archie Bradley nor Hector Neris, plus the battle for the final bullpen seat might be the toughest decision.

 

Quality Depth:

For the Phillies, one appearance could be a five-way tiebreaker and a ticket to Allentown for second place. Plus an injury-free competition may come down to the final cuts. Furthermore, the victor-to-be must produce to keep his middle-relief role. And he knows it!     

IN OTHER WORDS:

“I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.” - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Barring the unknown, the Fightins are at or above the $210 million CBT (competitive-balance threshold) because of roster-making contracts, but the players by seriously contending will force the execs to increase payroll for the trading deadline. Therefore, the relief corps is present, but their roles are fluid.               

Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, has assembled proven veterans and some fireballers to compete for up to eight jobs. Though, further investigation reveals the pen is even more striking up close.     

Manager Joe Girardi now has the pieces he needs for the final three innings with the acquisitions of Bradley, Brandon Kintzler and Jose Alvarado to complement Neris. Preferring specific roles, however, Girardi has four potential closers, or he could deploy his best options during critical late-game frames.

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2021 Phillies: Girardi’s Motivational Plans

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful are enjoying televised games from Clearwater, and manager Joe Girardi has already stated a five-man rotation and a center field platoon are possible. But could Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler exceed doubling their 2020 innings?   

 

The Dugout View: 

For stars, spring training is leisurely getting ready for the long summer ahead, but others without guarantees must be competitive with every pitch on the mound or in the batter’s box. Last year, though, 60 contests led to some Phillies starters recording around 30 innings. A sixth rotation arm?    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Consistent motivation usually comes from a consuming desire to be able to perform at your best under pressure, namely, the pressure produced by tough competition.” - Coach Bill Walsh

Basic management is to get the most out of each individual, and leaders rely on many approaches. However, it depends on the circumstances and the personnel involved.       

For the rotation, Girardi has established starters, veteran hurlers, a rookie and non-roster invitees. And he believes a five-man staff is doable despite going from 60 to 162 games. That stated, if he can do it, how would he accomplish it?      

If Matt Moore, Chase Anderson and Vince Velasquez believe only two spots are available, they must produce in March to earn one. And they’d also be aware of Spencer Howard as another competitor if he’s having an impressive spring.  

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Phillies: Spending Middleton’s Money for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In November, the Philadelphia Phillies faithful believed the franchise was a self-driving car going around in circles with little hope of addressing their needs. Furthermore, managing partner John Middleton claimed losses of up to $150 million and projected a lower payroll. Sacrebleu!

 

Harvested Pitching:

Some Phillies fans have no difficulty spending above the CBT (competitive-balance threshold), as if the pandemic and global financial problems are cinematic. Previously, their shopping list included two mid-rotation arms, an entirely new relief corps with a stud closer, and re-signing JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius before December.  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“That most delicious of all privileges -- spending other people's money.” - John Randolph of Roanoke

Behind the virtual front-office door, the higher-ups realized Realmuto and Gregorius were not going to quickly sign anywhere --especially the All-Star catcher. So, their strategy was to re-sign them and pick from a large pool of pitching bargains even before the hiring of Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations.    

In fact, president Andy MacPhail even said they would be late free-agent buyers on October 31, but it was one sentence within an entire interview. And either writers or fans didn’t hear or read MacPhail’s remarks at the time --like me-- or their views muted the comment if they noticed it.                                  

Even though the Fightins have committed $201.7 million AAV (average annual value), they will also be responsible for roughly another $6 million when Tony Watson and Brandon Kintzler make the Opening Day 26. But those two hurlers will increase the monetary total to only cover 21 roster slots.     

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Phillies Reload 2021’s Bullpen

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The 2020 pen of the Philadelphia Phillies appeared to continue 2019’s woes. However, injuries were more prevalent in ‘19, and the bullpen, rotation and offense were in the middle of the MLB pack. But last summer, the pandemic eliminated two hurlers, and injuries plus surgeries claimed four more. And healthy ineffectiveness?

 

Armed Fixing:

While many Phillies fans had demanded a relief-corps overhaul, some had anticipated failure, but Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, spent wisely and surprised them. Eventually, the bullpen upgrades, though, could run $15 million for four back-end relievers.                    

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are more teams looking for pitchers than there are pitchers. That's why it's pricey.” - Brian Cashman

In ‘19, eight relievers missed either months or nearly the entire season, and the only exceptions were Hector Neris and Jose Alvarez. Plus, unfortunately, two season-ending losses were David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez. Therefore, the faithful saw too much of Neris due to the injury bug.   

 

2019 Phillies in the MLB:

POS.

CATEGORY

STATS

14

Runs Scored

774

17

Total Pitching

4.53 ERA

17

Starting Staff

4.64 ERA

16

Relief Pitching

4.38 ERA

 

In ‘20, Robertson and Dominguez each were rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. But before Robertson, now a free agent, had a setback in Allentown, Dominguez had difficulty getting a second opinion and surgery due to coronavirus-affected restrictions. 

Although Ranger Suarez had recovered from COVID-19, he then struggled during his two disastrous opportunities. Additionally, Victor Arano’s velocity decline like many other pitchers was down without the adrenaline rush athletes experience from paying customers.    

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Phillies: 2021’s Rotation Strategy

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

After a 60-game campaign, the Philadelphia Phillies like all major league organizations will be cautious with their pitching staff.. Franchises will scrutinize the workloads of their entire rotation and most likely even their relief corp as well. So, don’t expect the usual!   

 

A Season of Ifs:

While many Phillies fans consider their team’s chances versus their divisional rivals, the most valuable ingredient is only visible when a club magically exceeds even their loftiest expectations. To illustrate, the Philadelphia Eagles won 2018’s Super Bowl with a backup quarterback over  Tom Brady. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“I just saw over the years that the times that we did remarkable things, it was always because players didn't want to let each other down. Players wanted to lift each other up.” - Theo Epstein

Even though many believe it’s impossible to compare sluggers from eons ago to today, starters are somehow exempt. Yes, those legends could hurl 300 innings and achieved their development in the minors because they spent a summer at each level: 16 teams, not 30.           

With job-losing fear, those moundsmen pitched through pain and injury if they could, and those who couldn’t had a lower status. Translation: A top-tier Phillies prospect named Jim Wright kept throwing until a bone snapped in half and protruded through his skin. Well, that ruins the totally positive myth of studs back then.                   

Owners now pay millions for even a five-slot hurler, and they consider it an investment. Ergo, franchises don’t take risks with talented youngsters they’ll need to win for more than one campaign. And remember, the faithful expect a player to complete his contract regardless of length.   

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